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Mystery surrounds Ottawa’s future

13 Sep 21, 7:56PM 0 Comments

Written by John Davidson

Photo by The Canadian Press

What is actually happening with the Ottawa Aces? Will they be playing in the UK’s League 1 tier next year?

That is a question many rugby league fans are pondering at the moment. But with the 2021 season drawing to a close, and 2022 approaching, no one is any the wiser.

RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer was asked this on Friday by the media but declined to answer:

“We’re not quite at a place where we can give you a definitive answer on that,” Rimmer said.

“But there are some interesting developments and hopefully we will be able to give you a bit more information on that soon.

“What I would say is that a strategic partner, which we are looking to bring alongside, will have opinion on how best to grow the sport.

“We’ve all got lots of opinions, but what we’re looking for is somebody really significant and credible to do some research alongside us and bring in what they think is the way forward.

“Some may come out with the idea that the North American connection is strong. Others may think that the France connection is strong while others may think it should be played in the Outer Hebrides.

“Let’s just not jump the gun and see what we come up with.”

The reality that Rimmer would not confirm or deny that Ottawa will be in League 1 next year or not is dubious. Where is the clarity, where is the professionalism and transparency?

Why was research into the United States and Canadian markets not done in 2015 before Toronto Wolfpack entered League 1? The mind boggles.

With the North American Rugby League competition hanging by a thread, what is the future of Eric Perez’s brainchild? Will League 1 clubs want to travel to Canada in 2022 with Covid-19 and all? And with funding dropping, and the future of many League 1 clubs in huge doubt, is having a North American club in the competition even feasible anymore?

These are the questions that need actually answering. The collapse of the Toronto Wolfpack in 2020 put huge concerns about the UK’s foray into the North American market. The Coronavirus pandemic, and a heavily reduced Sky broadcast deal, have only complicated matters further.

At this point Ottawa have no players signed up and their front-man, Perez, is not answering calls or messages from the media. The silence on the Aces, apart from a hyperactive Twitter account, is deafening.

The Aces were supposed to enter League 1 in 2021, but deferred their involvement for a year after Covid-19 hit.

Some are speculating that Ottawa will play all their 2022 home games out of Odsal, the home of Bradford Bulls. Considering Perez’s strong connection with Bradford owner Nigel Wood, the former CEO of the RFL, it wouldn’t exactly surprise.

But some clarity, some honesty, about what is actually happening with this expansion club would be welcome.

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